As Utqiagvik cases spike, House candidate says he’s just recovered from COVID-19

An Alaska Native man with a bolo tie and glaasses
Josiah Patkotak is an Independent candidate for Alaska’s House District 40 seat. He recently announced that he and his family had recovered from COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of Josiah Patkotak)

A legislative candidate from Utqiagvik says he and his family have recently recovered from COVID-19. Josiah Patkotak is an independent candidate looking to replace Rep. John Lincoln, an independent lawmaker from Kotzebue who is not running for re-election.

During a live candidate forum on KOTZ, he said he tested positive for the virus after travelling to Anchorage from Utqiagvik. 

“I’m not gonna go and throw under the bus where I think I was exposed to it, but it happened to be that I got exposed to it at home,” Patkotak said. “We chose to travel for different medical reasons, get the kids glasses and stuff like that, and we lived that risk.”

Utqiagvik, which serves as the main hub for villages in the North Slope Borough, has had a recent spike of positive cases of the virus. Of the town’s roughly 4,200 residents, more than 50 of them have tested positive for the virus in the last two weeks.

In response, North Slope mayor Harry Brower extended the borough’s hunker down mandate, pushing for residents to stay home unless they have an essential need, like shopping for groceries or getting medical care. It also requires residents over the age of 12 to wear a mask in public places. 

Patkotak says he and his family are healthy now, and will soon be traveling back to Utqiagvik from Anchorage after meeting testing requirements and working with the North Slope borough and the state. He says, though he recommends that people follow local health mandates, he doesn’t think the state should enforce a statewide mask mandate. 

“Respect personal choice and respect boundaries for people,” Patkotak said. “When it’s me and my family, we try to live as normal a life as we can, and we need to work with those.”

In response to a similar question, Patkotak’s opponent for House District 40’s seat, Democatic nominee Elizabeth Ferguson of Kotzebue, said she does support a statewide mask mandate. House District 40 covers the North Slope, Northwest Arctic Borough, and several northern Interior Alaska villages.

So far, Patkotak is the only legislative candidate to state he’s tested positive for the virus.